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    Posted July 3, 2013 by
    Copenhagen, Denmark

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    Yemen’s Al-Akhdam face brutal oppression


    In a joint submission to the UN’s UPR mechanism, the All Youth  Network in Yemen and IDSN provide an alternative report on the  precarious human rights conditions of the Al-Akhdam people and urge the  Government of Yemen to address their situation.

    They cannot own land. They are subjected to  violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation. They are often extremely  poor and are forced to carry out the most menial and dirty jobs. They  have almost no access to education. Their children are at constant risk  of sexual, physical and psychological abuse by dominant members of  society. They are generally despised, considered subhuman and treated as  outcastes.

    The above description may sound all too familiar to  those who are aware of the plight of the so-called ‘untouchables’ in  caste-affected countries like India, Nepal and Pakistan. In this case,  however, it applies to the situation of Yemen’s oppressed Al-Akhdam  people, a group that faces severe forms of discrimination, exclusion and  violence similar to those suffered by South Asia’s Dalit population.

    According to unofficial sources, there are between  500,000 and 3.5 million Al-Akhdam people in Yemen. For centuries, they  have been excluded from mainstream society, and they continue to be  subjected to severe forms of descent-based discrimination. As the  government has failed to adopt legislation that criminalises abuses  against them, the practices of persecution, discrimination and exclusion  go unpunished.

    The human rights situation of the Al-Akhdam is the  subject of an alternative NGO report for the UN’s Universal Periodic  Review (UPR) of Yemen, scheduled for January 2014. In  this joint submission, prepared with the assistance of independent  researcher Dr. Huda Seif, IDSN and the Yemeni organisation All Youth  Network for Society Development urge the Government of Yemen to address  the serious human rights situation of the Al-Akhdam.

    Such steps would include enacting  anti-discrimination laws that specifically criminalise discrimination  against the Al-Akhdam; measures that ensure access to justice for  Al-Akhdam people; a national action plan for the elimination of  discrimination against the Al-Akhdam; recognition of their right to  adequate housing; physical protection against violence; and free  elementary education for Al-Akhdam children.

    This will be the second time that UN member states  examine Yemen’s human rights record through the UPR mechanism. At the  first review in 2009, there was no reference to the human rights  violations faced by the Al-Akhdam, despite concerns expressed by UN  Treaty Bodies – including the Committee on the Elimination of Racial  Discrimination and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural  Rights.

    The Government of Yemen has till date failed to act  on the observations and recommendations by UN Treaty Bodies to improve  the situation of the Al-Akhdam. The authors of the alternative UPR  report expect UN member states to call on Yemen to finally address the  plight of this severely oppressed minority group.

    Joint UPR submission on Yemen

    IDSN briefing note on caste-based discrimination in Yemen

    All Youth Network for Society Development

    In pictures: Yemen’s ‘lowest of the low’ (BBC News)

    Languishing at the bottom of Yemen’s ladder (New York Times)

    Caste in Yemen (Baltimore Sun)

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